When you run a small business, you may not have the funds to hire the right talent. As a result, business owners feel overwhelmed by the prospect of doing everything from design to production to marketing and customer service. However, if you are willing to look beyond traditional hiring models, this need not be the case. Enter: Crowdsourcing for small business. If used in the right proportions at the right time, this resource can catapult your small business.
The term crowd sourcing was coined by Jeff Howe in a Wired article in 2006. Crowd sourcing is essentially outsourcing a function to an undefined and large network of people via an open-call format. Today, crowd sourcing is a growing field, with businesses farming out simple tasks to complex initiatives for a fraction of the cost that would have previously been required. Sites such as Freelancer, Topcoder and Tongal offer access to a large team of global talent, specializing in a variety of services such as writing web content, customized technology application development, and ad creation. If you are one of the many small business owners who have a great idea but do not have the right resources to execute it, crowd sourcing will be your new best friend.
There are several crowd sourcing models out there. In some cases you pay only if you like the work. In other cases you specify upfront how much you are willing to pay for the work, and sometimes you let the crowd compete for your business by running a contest. Whatever model you choose, there are certain things that you should keep in mind. Here is a list of 5 best practices for crowd sourcing success:
- Look around: Once you have a growth plan in place, you need to break down major tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks that can be easily crowd sourced. The best way to determine how granular your project definitions have to be, as well as the rates that are likely to fetch you quality work, is to check out a few crowd sourcing sites. Chances are high that someone has already done similar work; and the ratings process in most crowd sourcing sites will give you a fair indication of potential candidates who can work on your task.
- Qualify your crowd: In a crowd sourcing environment, you will face your share of scammers and imposters. However, you can easily overcome this hurdle if you take time to qualify your crowd. Test the waters with some easy and inexpensive jobs to shortlist a trustworthy workforce. Then, you will know you are outsourcing complex projects to the right people.
- Don’t bargain too hard: While crowd sourcing offers tremendous cost savings, it is essential that you pay fairly. If you opt for the lowest price, you might not get the quality that you expect. It’s unlikely that seasoned professionals will work for pennies.
- Be specific: You need to provide clear instructions. The crowd will consist of people from different geographies, speaking different languages, who will interpret your project in myriad ways. Be clear about your expectations. This is especially true for artistic projects where you need to set boundaries for creative freedom in terms of the tone you want (serious, funny, informational etc.), your target audience, and the key message that you want to convey.
- Communicate often: The final element is to communicate often. Even after you have assigned a task to one or more members of the crowd, it is necessary to follow up with feedback at regular intervals, especially with large projects such as building an entire website. This collaborative approach is crucial for crowd sourcing success.